It’s been an emotional [url id=”http://www.mtv.com/news/topic/american_idol/”]”American Idol”[/url] journey for Didi Benami.
When we met the 23-year-old waitress from Knoxville, Tennessee, she told the story of her late friend during a powerhouse audition. Her hot streak continued with an acoustic cover of the Kara DioGuardi-penned “Terrified” during Hollywood Week. But the judges were confused by Benami’s all-over-the-map song choices during the live shows, and voters apparently lost interest, too, after her wobbly take on “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” sending the singer/songwriter packing Wednesday.
We caught up with Didi on Thursday (April 1) to talk about Ryan Seacrest’s awkward questions, meeting superstar mentors and what’s next.
Q: You were very emotional during your time on “Idol.” Is that typical for you, or was it the pressure-filled experience that set you off?
A: Music is definitely therapy for me. It’s therapeutic and, I do it as a relief, and it’s who I am. And it’s funny, because the cameras always catch me whenever I am emotional, which sucks, because I’m not always emotional. I’ve actually been pretty strong through this whole thing. It’s just, whenever something happens and I break down, it’s unfortunately right when there’s a camera in my face. But it’s been an amazing ride, and of course it’s been emotional, because this is something that I’ve always wanted to do, and reaching that place that I got to on the show was really an amazing thing for me, and it was really a big accomplishment. And that was emotional for me, because you work so hard, and you just try to believe and keep the faith and imagine and just know that good things will come, and when they finally do, it’s like almost in disbelief. And it’s a really amazing opportunity, and it brought me to tears.
Q: Ryan asked you some uncomfortable questions on Tuesday night that you didn’t want to answer. Do you think that affected the vote at all?
A: I don’t know. There’s no way to tell. It was kind of a weird situation. It was a little awkward for me. … There’s a time and a place. I was trying to convey the message through the song, not by somebody asking me why I was singing it. I think it was pretty obvious to people why I was singing it. I don’t think that anybody hasn’t had that emotion, and I sing the song because I love the song. It was kind of an uncomfortable situation for me, because I didn’t want to answer the question, but ultimately, I think I did what I felt was in my best interest.
Q: Simon hesitated while deciding whether to use the judges’ save. What was it like to wait to see if they would use it?
A: It was tough. The whole crowd was chanting, and that was pretty cool. But ultimately, regardless, I kind of felt like I was going home. And I thought it would be cool if they exercised the option to let me stay, and I wanted to come back next week for Beatles week and be great. But regardless of what happened, I was kind of in the head space like I was OK either way and I’m not really worried. I’ve had amazing support from everybody, and it’s just been a really crazy, cool ride, and I’m happy, because I’m going on tour, and I have a lot to look forward to, so I’m not at all distraught about anything. I want to put a record together, and I wanna get my music out there too, so it’s cool. I’m OK with it.
Q: Was it a relief to make it to the top 10 so you could go on tour?
A: Yeah, I’m relieved I get to go on tour. I don’t have to work as a waitress anymore! It’s nice. I get to do what I love more than anything, and it’s just amazing. The fans that are already reaching out and supporting, it’s amazing, it’s a blessing and, yeah, it is a relief. It’s a relief to know that I will be able to make a living at what I love to do over the summer and hopefully for the rest of my life, so yeah it’s been a really, really awesome experience and I’m relieved, yes.
Q: This week, Kara said she thought you had lost your way. Did you agree?
A: No, I don’t feel like I lost my way. I feel like they wanted me to do something specific every week, and I kind of went out on a limb several weeks and I did different things and they weren’t expecting it, and it was kind of a surprise, and it was just to show that I can do other things. I’m a singer/songwriter and I have that, but I also tap into every single emotion that I have. And that I do very well. That’s something that is artistry. Through these songs, I was just showing a different side to myself, and it probably wasn’t necessarily the side that they wanted to see, but I have them and I think everybody does, so I was just being me. … I appreciate Kara, though. I think she was trying to … I think they were all trying to be really helpful, and I was just doing my thing, and it wasn’t exactly what they had kind of planned out for me, I guess.
Q: What was it like to work with Usher and Miley Cyrus?
A: It was pretty cool. I mean, I realized finally where I was, actually being there with Miley Cyrus and Usher. It was like, “Oh, I’m on ’American Idol’! I’m in the top 10!” I was just kind of riding the wave. Honestly, I got further than I ever thought that I would, and it was a really cool experience, so I’m just grateful.
Q: What kind of music do you see yourself making?
A: Didi music! [Laughs.] I’m gonna do my thing. I’m gonna do singer/songwriter type [music]. Like acoustic, low-key, chill, relaxing music. I’m gonna put my heart into what I do, like I do every time. … It’s like acoustic, I guess. Soul acoustic kind of fusion stuff — a little jazz, hint of bluegrass, and it’s a little bit of everything that I’ve experienced in my life.
Were you sad to see Didi go? Are you excited to hear her post-“Idol” music? Let us know in the comments below!
Get your “Idol” fix on MTV News’ “American Idol” page , where you’ll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.